My brother once asked me if I was on drugs. I replied, “No, Dan, I’m not on drugs.” He paused for a few seconds, looked at me and said, “you are the only person I’ve ever known who could look someone so honestly in the eyes and lie so deviously.”
Towards the end of a nearly two-year battle with daily meth use, I lost everything. I was 134 pounds with a 27-inch waist, gray skin, and sick with pneumonia. I thought I was fabulous. l developed an interesting relationship with the truth and I lost the ability to be honest. Sex was not interesting unless I was high, and even then, it came with great dysfunction. I lost my connection with God unless I was praying to get out of a dire situation, but I wasn’t willing to make any changes. I kept trying to keep it all together and make a life with meth work. I’d forget to pay the electric bill and have to drape a 100-foot drop cord over the balcony and plug it into a neighbor’s wall to have power. The rent was always behind, the food in the fridge would spoil because I forgot to eat, and I was blind to these problems. I lost integrity because I couldn’t show up anywhere on time or at all. I thought my behavior was justified because other people did me wrong and I harbored resentments. The only service I provided to others was misery, drama, and my body. Living a life based on spiritual principles was nonexistent.
I eventually found my way to CMA and started a new chapter of my life. The people I met in early recovery were filled with joy, and they would say things like, “we can do this one day at a time; get a sponsor to work with you on the Steps; keep things simple; don’t future trip; find a home group; find a higher power; be of service.” This was a new language, but I was willing to learn it as I knew without a doubt that my love affair with meth was over. I took all these suggestions to heart and followed through. I got a sponsor, found a home group, and subscribed to the one-day-at-a-time concept.
A. The Foundation Steps.
Step One (honesty)
When I found the rooms of CMA I surrendered. I stopped fighting a daily battle with meth and I started embracing life again. The first step was to get honest and admit I am powerless over crystal meth and it makes my life unmanageable. This wasn’t an easy task, but I was all out of good ideas. My meth use turned my life upside down and I was tired of living like that. I discovered if I stop using meth, I no longer had to cover up what was really going on with me. I had a lot of shame attached to my meth use and too much pride to admit defeat. Being honest about my disease and willing to start telling the truth was, and still is, incredibly freeing. I discovered if I become more truthful about my feelings and actions, I only have one story to tell. Lastly, I committed to the idea of total abstinence from meth and all other drugs—even alcohol, special K, and poppers.
Step Two (hope)
A wise man once said, “If you are a sober man who knows what happens to him when he puts drugs into his body, then you’re a sober man experiencing a moment of insanity.” These words resonated with me, and I discovered I needed to do something when I experienced these kinds of thoughts. I could call a friend in CMA, call my Twelve Step CMA sponsor, or connect with my higher power. The last one was tricky as I lost the ability to pray for anything except to be rescued or when I felt guilt for using meth after swearing I’d never use again. It was a vicious cycle that went something like this: “God, please get me through the night, guide me to safety, and I promise I’ll never do that again.” I can’t tell you how many times this happened.
I was raised Jewish and never really had a problem with a higher power. I just didn’t know how to ask for help and guidance to improve the quality of my life. When I came to CMA and got honest about being a meth addict, I discovered that there was hope for me and my addiction. My sponsor told me to re-establish a relationship with my higher power and bring a sense of spirituality into my life. I eventually understood the need to do just that. These days I take some time in the morning to pray for another day of recovery from addiction and pray for other people’s well being. This is a simple and effective routine.
Step Three (faith)
The process of getting clean and changing my life introduced me to one of my major hang-ups. I like to control things. I like to know how things may turn out before starting a project. It’s like knowing how a movie ends before seeing it. By re-establishing my connection with a higher power, I learned about faith. I discovered I don’t have to run everything and manipulate others to produce the outcome I desire. All I can do is my part. I show up for life and do any footwork that’s required, then let go of the results. I have no control over how something is going to turn out, but I have developed faith that I’ll be taken care of if I show up for life instead of living in fear. My sponsor used to tell me it’s ok to say, “I don’t know,” because that leaves the door open for a man to be teachable. Today I am teachable and though I struggle sometimes with the control thing, I can easily recognize my behavior and let go.
B. The Understanding Me and What Needs to Change Steps.
Step Four (courage)
It’s a courageous act to take the time and write out an inventory of resentments, a history of sex and relationships, and a list of fears. When I did my first inventory I didn’t know how to get started. What I learned is there are many approaches to this process. My sponsor instructed me to do the assignment in columns which worked for me because I liked the visual spreadsheet approach. Row one: resentments of people, places, and things. Row two: what the resentment is. Row three: how did the resentment affect me? Row four: what role did I play in the resentment? Row five: what defect of character comes up? I repeated this process and recognized that I had difficulty accepting responsibility for when I was wrong. I harbored resentments because it was easier to blame someone or something else for how I was feeling.
After looking at resentments, I explored my sexual history and relationships. I was able to understand how I’ve treated my partners and learn things I wanted to change. I’ve had sex with many men and the inventory showed me times when I was having fun, and times when I was using sex for validation and self-worth. As I learned in Step One, I had difficulty with honesty. I learned the key to a healthier relationship is communication with my partner. I wrote out a sexual ideal that helped me see what I wanted and was worthy of in future relationships. The inventory showed me that sex is a healthy thing if I’m aware of my intentions before going into it.
The final inventory was on fear. I wrote out a list of my fears, why I feared them, and if my fear was realistic. Fears kept me from change. I revealed the need to acknowledge and walk through my fears to grow. In my addiction, I didn’t want to change anything because of fear of the unknown. Reality check: life is always changing. I can choose to change with it or remain stagnant. Today, I embrace change.
Step Five (integrity)
After completing my inventory, I shared it with my sponsor. I initially thought he’d judge me or not believe that I experienced certain things, but instead he listened and treated me with respect. It was freeing, and eye opening. It gave me clarity to start making significant changes towards becoming the person I wanted to be. At my core, I am a good man with integrity. I’m kind, compassionate, loving, and I care about other people. This step helped me embrace my assets and recognize how fear crippled me. I no longer react to the world in a negative way.
Step Six (willingness) and Step Seven (humility)
When I did my fourth step, I compiled a list of “character defects.” These are behaviors that no longer serve me. They are born from fear, and they block me from growth. I used these behaviors as defense mechanisms, but I discovered they were defending the wrong things. I must practice willingness to acknowledge these behaviors and have the humility to change how I react to situations. I’ve learned it’s ok to make mistakes, because I am not perfect. It is important to have friends in my life who let me know when I’m falling out of this practice. I’m no longer defensive, and I pay attention to what my friends are saying as it helps me to steer towards a healthier path.
Step Eight (brotherly and sisterly love) and Step Nine (justice)
When I was using meth, I never thought I owed anything to anybody. I believed my behavior was justified and all the negative things happening to me were caused by the actions of others. Steps four through seven told a different story, and they prepared me to start taking responsibility for my actions by making amends to others. My sponsor instructed me to write out a list that included people that were close to me whom I hurt, and the one financial institution I ran from—the Internal Revenue Service. This was an act of love, as I wanted the people I harmed to know that I was sincerely sorry for any wrongdoings and asked them what they wanted from me to set the record straight. And as for the tax man, I finally paid him in full. Interesting how funds were available now that I was no longer spending it on meth.
C. The Maintenance Steps.
Step Ten (perseverance and responsibility)
Step Ten is about responsibility. I no longer reserve the right to tell anybody they have to accept me and my intolerable attitude. I need to be accountable, and by doing so, people want me around. As I go through my week, I have an opportunity to review my day and take an inventory of my behavior—good and bad. I’ll admit I don’t do this every day, but I do it several times throughout the week. A part of healthier living is being the best version of me. If I owe an amend or apology I need to take care of it right away. I no longer need to harbor resentments. In addition, I must set aside time for prayer and meditation, even if it’s brief. If my inventory displays my lack of spiritual connection, I have an opportunity to enhance it. Most of all, the inventory will help me help others. Service is a vital component to recovery. I need to stay connected with other addicts on a regular basis.
Step Eleven (spirituality)
After the untimely death of my sponsor, who worked with me for thirteen years, I was without sponsorship for a while. I eventually found a new sponsor who was all about meditation, prayer, and calming exercises. This was appealing, as I wanted to increase my spiritual practices. He helped me tremendously in this area. He was leading some workshops at the first CMA Los Angeles retreat and he invited me to go. I‘d never been to a retreat for fear of someone trying to convert me, but this time I was open to the idea. It’s no wonder this is the eleventh step and not the first. I had to do all the work in steps four through nine to have a clear mind and be open to increasing this area of my life.
Step Twelve (service)
I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. All I had to do was take direction and simple suggestions from those who came to CMA before me. They showed me how to achieve long term recovery from the grip of meth addiction. I started sponsoring men and women over twenty years ago and I continue to sponsor people today. It is one of the most rewarding parts of my program. In addition, I’ve held meeting commitments and eventually found my way to general service work. The work we do in general service ensures that doors will always be open for newcomers to walk through all over the world, and I am grateful to be part of the process.
I walked through the doors of CMA many years ago and I never turned back. I have gone from being a broken man with a lack of spiritual principles to a man whose life is dependent on them. The Twelve Steps are a way of life, and today they are my solution to the meth problem. Whatever I’m going through, and whatever happens to me, I have a step I can refer to that can help me through it. I no longer live in fear, and I do my best not to predict the future. I continue attending CMA meetings to connect with my friends and hear how they use the Twelve Steps. Thanks to all who came before me for having an open door to welcome this newcomer many years ago.